Nearly 100 people including the Columbus Crew's coach and general manager showed up outside Hudson Street Hooligans pub Thursday to show support for the club, which had its Certificate of Occupancy revoked by the city last week after an inspection revealed the building was not up to code.
The pub, opened last June and expanded last winter, is the first private club in America devoted to supporting a professional sports team.
"It's given our club notoriety and this community notoriety," Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers said.
Hooligans officer Blake Compton said he was pleased with the turnout and expressed the group's desire to work with the city to get the building up to code. Required safety improvements include a fireproof ceiling between the pub and its residential neighbors upstairs, plus an out-swinging door, exit signs and additional points of exit. The building also needs additional parking and better compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The renovations could cost as much as $50,000. Without the continued influx of game-day income, the Hooligans will have to be resourceful to fund the upgrades to the building, Compton said.
McCullers said the Crew intends to help the Hooligans in any way possible. Meanwhile, the Hooligans have initiated a fundraising drive on their website.
"These guys started as some buddies going to soccer games," Hooligans attorney Edward Hastie said, "and now they've got a storefront where they hosting meetings, so they'll find a way."
Former Crew player Duncan Oughton, now an employee and ambassador for the team, said the Hooligans club has become an essential integration point between the team and its fans.
"A place like this is where you want to be," Oughton said. "I carry my membership card around just in case."
Coach Robert Warzycha, a former Crew player who also logged time in the English Premier League, called the pub an important step forward for soccer supporters culture in the United States.
"In England, the fans gather around the stadium," Warzycha said. "This is a starting point."